Diabetes and Oral Health are a Two-Way Street
It seems ironic that National Diabetes Awareness Month starts on November 1st, the day after Halloween, which is synonymous with candy. While sweets can and do impact your blood sugar, indulging in Halloween candy, or your kids treats will not cause you to develop diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that inhibits the body's ability to produce or properly respond to insulin. This results in elevated or abnormally low levels of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. There are two main types of diabetes, type 1, where one's body does not produce insulin, can occur at age, and in people of every race, shape, and size. Type 2, the most common type of diabetes means that one's body does not use insulin properly. Diet is an essential part of self-care for individuals with both types of diabetes. Still, while those with type 2 can sometimes control their diabetes through diet alone, type 1 diabetics must use medication in addition to carefully monitoring their diets. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control ) 34.2 million Americans—just over 1 in 10—have diabetes, and 88 million American adults—approximately 1 in 3—have prediabetes. American Diabetes Association estimates that of the over 30 million Americans with diabetes only about 1 out of 4 people know that they have the disease. National Diabetes Awareness Month aims to bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans. And why is my dentist writing about diabetes you might be asking? Well, the answer is simple; diabetes and oral health are a two-way street.
Diabetes and Oral Health
What exactly do we mean by this? Significant research shows that diabetes has a great impact on one's oral health and that oral health can affect how your body processes sugar. Individuals with diabetes are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop gum disease, like gingivitis and periodontal disease. More recently, scientists are finding that gum disease may raise blood sugar levels in people with and without diabetes. Most of us know the long list of complications that can often stem from diabetes, such as cardiovascular and nervous system problems. Still, in recent years, kidney and even Alzheimer's disease have been added to the list of possible complications. In the oral disease realm, Periodontal disease is the most common dental problem affecting patients with diabetes. This is due to a couple of things:
- Poor blood sugar regulation increases one's risk of gum problems. Why? This is partly because when one's body is using its energy to stabilize your blood sugar levels, it is not fighting off bacteria or fungal infection in your mouth. When bacteria or infections are allowed to flourish in the oral cavity, periodontal disease can occur as gums are eaten away.
- As we head down the proverbial "other side of the street," we must address that periodontal disease is common in diabetic patients because gum disease can cause blood sugar levels to rise, making diabetes more difficult to control.
You Can Control Your Health
We have written many times about a healthy lifestyle and diet and Top-10-supertooth-foods, and Popcorn, Friend or Foe? To list a couple but, you guessed it, we can't stress enough the importance of regular dental cleanings and check-ups as part of taking charge of your oral health. These one or two annual visits are also about taking control of your overall health, so don't wait. Treating gum disease can help diabetic patients better manage their blood sugar and slow their diabetes progression. To prevent gum disease and the progression of diabetes, follow some of these tips:
- Don't skip or put off your regularly scheduled professional tooth cleanings – dentists and hygienists can help monitor your gum and systemic health.
- Quit smoking! It is often a challenging prospect, but there is support out there. Ask your dentist or hygienist for help or reach out for assistance through the CDC's Quitline -1-800-QUIT-NOW or online at gov/tobacco/quit_smoking or smokefree.gov
- Eating healthier can help your body regulate your blood sugar levels. Dry mouth is uncomfortable and can lead to increased dental decay; healthy eating and drinking lots of water can also help.
- If you have dentures, make sure to keep them clean and well adjusted.
- Brush, ideally after every meal and floss twice a day.
As we slowly return to our new "normal," it is essential to remember that staying healthy is more than just wearing a mask, keeping six feet distance, and washing hands. It is crucial that in addition to eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and mentally happy that we continue to care for our body and mouth. Healthcare providers around the globe have been provided with information and as they begin opening back up again, established policies and protocols in their respective offices to keep their teams and patients safe. Please don't ignore health symptoms that arise during this stressful and uncertain time or put off regular dental cleanings, doctor's examinations, or treatment that has been scheduled. Listen to your body and take care of it. This crazy time will eventually pass, make sure that you are taking care of yourself so that you will be healthy enough to enjoy it. As 2020, ticks towards its end so do annual dental and medical benefits. Despite our crazy year, your flexible spending dollars and annual dental befits will expire on December 31, 2020. Make sure to stay on top of your health, and call your dentist, and other healthcare providers today. Schedules often fill up quickly toward the end of the year, especially since many offices are limiting availability to ensure safety. Don’t miss your chance to set-up a convenient appointment before the end of the year.
San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been caring for his patients for decades from his dental office that overlooks San Francisco's Union Square. He and his team take pride in providing the best quality and most gentle dental care available. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are in need or want of a new dentist, Dr. Loev and his team would love the opportunity to meet you and earn your trust and loyalty, call them at 415-392-2072 or schedule an appointment online today.